We have characterized Xenopus ISWI, a catalytic subunit of a family of chromatin-remodeling complexes. We show that ISWI is expressed constitutively during development but poorly expressed in adult tissues except oocytes which contain a large store of maternal protein. We further analyzed its localization both in vivo and in vitro in Xenopus cell cycle extracts and identified that ISWI binds to chromatin at the G1-S period. However, its association to chromatin does not require ongoing DNA replication. Immunodepletion of ISWI has no effect on either sperm chromatin decondensation or the kinetics and efficiency of DNA replication. Nucleosome assembly also occurs in ISWI-depleted extracts, but nucleosome spacing is disturbed. From these results, we conclude that ISWI is not necessary for sperm chromatin decondensation and the accelerated rates of DNA replication that characterize early development.